As I now have reached "elder-hood," perhaps my "political passions" have mellowed. Nonetheless, I have always wondered why municipal elections across the land, and indeed here in Juneau, have always aroused LESS interest than statewide or national elections. Many may be watching California next Tuesday more than our own races. Indeed, local elections certainly have a far greater effect on the local taxes, economy, education and community economic development than any other elections at any level or in any state.
So I must begin by simply exhorting Juneauites to "take time to study the candidates, the issues, and then VOTE!" Whatever the choices Juneau citizens make are fine, as long as they aren't based on frivolities such as a nice name, a nice face, or someone who happens to have a neighboring address.
So here we are with an election next Tuesday. Both candidates for mayor I personally know and respect. Both support economic development, "the road," etc. One already has done two terms of service on the Assembly (including mayor), the other yet to serve at the city level. Both have served at state cabinet level under governors of opposite parties. There may be little to discern them among many voters. Bothello advocates taking a certain level of fiscal risk by constructing a new Capitol (building) under taxpayer bond obligations. However, Knapp advocates primary emphasis at removing the principal Mat-Su valley objection to Juneau as a capital (that of "inaccessibility") prior to funding new digs for the legislators. Knapp also is one who is tired of spending unending money on studies without ever making a decision on action. While Bothello brings a valued background in law, Knapp brings needed education and experience managing huge fiscal budgets (controller of the entire Coast Guard, commander of the entire (Alaska) 17th Coast Guard District and commissioner of Alaska Department of Transportation).
In the one contested Assembly seat, one candidate (Anderson) has served one term and seeks reelection. The other has just concluded service as (I believe) the first teenager to ever serve on the Juneau School Board and is to be commended for this public service. Anderson brings experience and background in finance, and seeks the orderly growth and development of Juneau. Peterson, although a strong advocate of an additional high school to meet needs of possible future growth, proposes reducing current tourism by 30 percent to relieve perceived congestion downtown, without addressing the huge effect on sales taxes, jobs, economy and, hence, the population of Juneau (including student population).
The School Board has a bewildering cast of a dozen candidates, all of whom have the best interests of Juneau's educational system at heart. However, the school system is at the brink of collapse. Teachers deservedly should be paid more. Classrooms should be less crowded. Overall educational levels should be improved. Yet both the city and the state are already providing the maximum amount of funding allowed by law. So how are we to fund administering, heating, and staffing a new high school with only $800,000 additional money? This is a question the new School Board must face and provide answers, however draconian (such as closing one or more elementary schools), or else reconsider whether Juneau should build a second high school at this time. There are three candidates who are pledged to address the various unpopular alternatives to blindly heading for the rocks of a bankrupt school system. They are Guthrie, Mayron and Morris. Perhaps some other candidates share these very serious concerns but have not stated them.
In any event, BE SURE TO VOTE. Local elections are the most important elections affecting EVERY citizen of Juneau. Choose among this wonderful selection of your friends, neighbors and fellow citizens with care. Your vote WILL affect your future here in Juneau.
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